Posted by|06 March 2014
We’re back from the amazing Florida Herbal Conference!
While we were down south, Steven and I had the chance to explore some of Florida’s native plants and found this beautiful Saw Palmetto in bud. A powerful plant with razor sharp spines and such delicate, lacy inflorescences.
Want to see more photos from our trip? Check out our Facebook album!
Posted by|04 March 2014
Our post on Sipping Vinegars was so popular that we thought a detailed how-to on a traditional medicinal vinegar preparation would be helpful too…
I had no idea what this word meant when I first heard it, but after a little bit of research, I realized this age old recipe is much more familiar than I thought. Oxymel – from the Latin oxymeli meaning “acid and honey” has been made and used in many ways throughout the ages and it’s a recipe that can be adapted to suit your health and herbal needs.
Traditionally, an Oxymel recipe would be used to administer herbs that might not be so pleasant to take on their own. Additionally, some of the more pleasant herbs can become even more delightful after a bath in honey and vinegar! After you try your hand at making an Oxymel, you might find that it will go nicely in some bubbly water on a warm day, on top of freshly-made pancakes, on a bed of fresh greens from your garden, by itself, or with some warm water to help keep your spirits and throat happy during a heavy cough. You can change the combination of herbs to aid you in whichever way you like.
Who doesn’t love apple cider vinegar and honey? Apple cider vinegar and honey alone are a soothing treat to an exhausted throat, but throw in some of your favorite immune boosters and we have a medicinal friend: Oxymel! (Somewhere along the path of herbal history, Rosemary Gladstar whipped up a version using classic ingredients like ginger, garlic, cayenne, and horseradish and called it fire cider.)
I hope this guide helps you find a version that suits you!
What you will need:
- organic apple cider vinegar
- raw local honey
- organic medicinal herbs of your choice (see below)
- pint jar
- pan to decoct
- jar for storage (some nice options here)
Raw apple cider vinegar is a great way to make an alcohol free extract.
Local Honey – I like wildflower honey. I can’t help but get excited about the thought of all of the hard working bees blending together the pollen of hundreds of flowers. I appreciate the different taste nuances I get depending on valley and season. If you want something more consistent and neutral, try a clover honey.
Organic herb possibilities for a throat soothing immune boost:
(These are just a few examples of herbs, but the possibilities are endless!)
There are a few ways you can prepare an Oxymel: I’ve outlined the two ways I’ve used and one additional option, which, I have not tried, but certainly will in the future.
Generally speaking, you want a ratio of 1:3 – 1:4 . That is to say 1 part dried herb to 3 or 4 parts vinegar and honey. You can easily measure by filling a pint jar less than 1/4 of the way with herbs and then topping with equal parts honey and equal parts vinegar. I’ve noticed the older techniques prefer more honey, up to 5 parts honey to 1 parts vinegar, and the newer recipes call for more apple cider vinegar, as much as 3 parts vinegar to one part honey. I prefer half and half. You can find a ratio that suits you! For storage, I prefer a glass jar with a cork top, like the ones found here.
Method 1: Stir, Shake, and Sit
Good method for a variety of herbs!
Place desired herbs into pint jar (1/4 – 1/5 of the way full), cover with apple cider vinegar and honey. You can stir before sealing the jar, or seal the jar and shake until well mixed. Now let your jar sit somewhere cool and dark and shake a couple of times a week. After two weeks, strain and pour into a glass jar for storage.
Method 2: Vinegar Reduction
Great for non-delicate herbs and hearty roots!
If you’re in a pinch and need an Oxymel quickly, you can always experiment with a vinegar reduction. I would not use this method for especially aromatic or floral herbs, as it may be too harsh of an extraction process with heat causing the aromatics to dissipate. In my recipe, it worked well, bringing out the aroma of all herbs perfectly evenly! Apple cider vinegar steam can be very intense, so be careful not to put your face and eyes over the pot while it is simmering (it will not feel good if you do!) You will want to use twice as much vinegar as you need in the end, since this is a reduction and you will loose half of it in the process to evaporation. Reduce for 30-40 minutes on low heat. Once you are done, let cool and strain, mix herbal decocted vinegar with equal parts honey until well mixed and store in an airtight bottle.
Method 3: Infusing Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar Seperately
Nice option for especially delicate herbs.
This is a very easy way to make an Oxymel if you already have infused honey and infused apple cider vinegar, or one or the other. If you have previously infused apple cider vinegar or honey you simply get to mix them together using a ratio that suits you and enjoy! If you regularly cook with herbal infused honeys and vinegars and have some of your favorites sitting around, this can be a great way to turn your culinary spice into a soothing treat!
Posted by|28 February 2014
These tasty Herbal Honey Spreads from our friends at Mockingbird Meadows are back in stock!
Allergency with raw Honey, organic Nettle, Pollen, Wild Yam, organic Eleuthero, and organic Orange peel.
Immuni-Bee with raw Honey, organic Elder berry, organic Astragalus, organic Echinacea, and organic Shiitake.
Inflamma-Bee with raw Honey, organic Meadowsweet, organic Cinnamon, organic Black Cohosh, organic Turmeric, organic Celery seed, and organic Anise.
Honey ZZZ with raw Honey, Hops, organic Skullcap, and organic Passionflower.
Posted by|27 February 2014
We were lucky to have a break in the rain today for a tree planting around our warehouse. Our Director of Sustainability, Alyssa, coordinated this planting with our pals from the Eugene chapter of Friends of Trees (including Jeff, shown here.) These Oregon White Oak trees will improve the soil and air quality on this industrial lot, and provide shelter for all sorts of living critters as they grow. Our warehouse employees took some time out of their busy day to help get these young trees settled in their new homes.
Posted by|26 February 2014
While we love working with our international farms, growing herb plants closer to home here in North America is also good for the quality of our herbs and spices. It is definitely good for North American farmers, benefits the environment (by using less fossil fuels to transport herbs), and creates and sustains jobs here at home.
In Europe, herbal plant horticulture has been a large and encouraged part of the agricultural traditions for millennia. European “Farm Bills,” agricultural colleges, and extension services support the production and management of European traditional herbal medicines. Historically, we do not have that same support in North America. Our agriculture has been geared towards increasing the size of farms and decreasing the variety of plants to encourage giant monocultures of staple grains and beans.
Even though there has been an increase in farmers who are interested in growing medicinal plants since the 1970s, there is still a need for small and medium sized farms to grow medicinal and aromatic plants. At Mountain Rose Herbs, we are proud to have encouraged and supported farmers across the country who grow organic herbs for decades and I think we have historical precedent here, too!
During a growth of interest in medicinal plants at the end of the 1800’s, the Eclectics herbal tradition was founded on helping farmers and extension services publish papers on cultivating North American roots and herbs. What we now know about cultivating echinacea, black cohosh, bloodroot, and ginseng started during that time period.
Today, even commonplace “weeds” such as dandelion, St. John’s wort, or sheep sorrel are in high demand and are a good example of the range of plants that could be grown in different types of farms across the nation. As a modern continuation of the North American herbal tradition, one of our responsibilities must be to provide herbalists and herb lovers with the best plants, all while we work with farmers and land managers to grow and harvest these healthy, high quality plants.
There are some unique challenges in growing medicinal plants: learning to dry and mill leaves, roots and berries takes experience and practice; transitioning to organic farming practices requires accountability and adherence to strict regulations; additionally, figuring out what’s best to grow on your land and in your climate takes a few years of trials. At Mountain Rose Herbs, we’re eager to help farmers who will work with us!
We’re excited more extension offices and other farmer resources are beginning to take an interest in herbs. We’re also looking forward to meeting and working with farmers and land managers in Appalachia at the Organic Growers Conference, Asheville March 8-9. On the Friday before the conference, I will be presenting with Jeanine Davis from the Mountain Crop Extension Service, Joe-Ann McCoy from the North Carolina Arboretum, Sarah Schober from the Bionetwork Natural Products Laboratory, and Jennifer Flynn from the Blue Ridge Naturally Branding Project.We will be chatting about these current herb farming realities and sharing how farmers can grow and sell organic herbs and plants to eager buyers.
I have high hopes for meeting and engaging with the Organic Farming community of the South. It’s a region with strong plant traditions and we’re glad to be a part of it.
Posted by|24 February 2014
We rediscovered this recipe while sorting through boxes of Mountain Rose history. Handwritten notes, catalog artwork, photos, and other keepsakes from throughout the decades inspired us to revisit old favorites. Herbalist, gardener, and Mountain Rose President, Julie Bailey created this gorgeous solid perfume and it has become a classic that we just love. Easy to keep in your bag or pocket, enjoy a dab of this sensual aroma on your wrists and décolletage before heading out for an enchanted evening.
Earth Aroma Balm
1 ½ cup organic almond oil
1 tsp Vitamin E oil
½ cup beeswax pastilles
Organic Essential Oil Blend
Clary Sage – 20 drops
Sweet Marjoram – 20 drops
Vetiver – 20 drops
Juniper – 10 drops
Lavender – 10 drops
* Mix essential oils together in a glass bottle and roll between the palms of your hands to combine. Set aside.
Using a double boiler, gently warm carrier oils over medium heat. Add the beeswax and stir together until completely melted to liquid, but do not boil! Remove from heat and stir in the essential oils. Immediately pour into 1oz containers and screw lids on tight. Makes 14.
Posted by|20 February 2014
Last week, three of our favorite employees traveled to Germany for the annual BIOFACH–the world’s largest Trade Fair for Organic Food. Here they are in front of the Exhibit Centre Nuremberg where they were busy meeting new folks and reconnecting with current and potential organic vendors. What an exceptional opportunity to see what new products are coming into the organic market! Here’s our team from left to right: Elvira (International Farm Manager), Jennifer (Director of Operations) and Meghan (China and India Buyer).
At Mountain Rose, we are proud to support Organic Agriculture throughout the world.
Posted by|18 February 2014
When you think about how we create our skin creams, salves, and massage oils, you might be imagining a large factory kitchen with fancy machinery, but that’s not quite how things are done around here. We’ve kept our production kitchen small by choice so we can continue to make the much loved recipes created by Rosemary Gladstar and Julie Bailey years ago in exactly the same way—in small batches by hand, with care and patience.
Our production kitchen team is involved in every single step—from infusing oils to putting on the labels, and when a jar of cream leaves the kitchen, it is sent out to be carefully wrapped for one of our customer orders. You might be surprised to discover how closely our process resembles the way many home herbalists craft their own creations!
We start by infusing our organic carrier oils with our own high quality organic dried herbs. Using the sun infusion method, the jars are actually placed in a windowsill here at Mountain Rose Herbs where they are infused for 2 weeks before being strained. The herbs are then composted and the infused oils are hand-labeled and organized on a shelf to be used in our recipes. Did you know that the oil used in our Autumn Moon Massage Oil is still infused on the quarter moon and pressed (the herbs strained from the oil) on the 2nd full moon after the infusion? This commitment to our roots is important to us!
The busiest times of the year for crafting these creations are the winter holidays and around Valentine’s day, so the crew gears up to make sure we’ve got plenty of infused oils ready to meet the requests. However, we still don’t stockpile finished products, preferring to create them as the need arises.
This careful, intentional process lends itself well to our organic and sustainability standards. We use drip pans when pouring oils and cleaning containers so that we can recycle as much as possible—keeping the oils out of the sink and the water supply. These oil drippings are then donated to SeQuential for biofuel production!
While we must meet commercial manufacturing standards, our Quality Control Lab manager has created a special sanitizer so we don’t have to use toxic chemicals. Still, our Kitchen Manager, Toni, admits that doing dishes is the least favorite part of her job (sounds familiar!) while the fun of creating skin and body care products with the team is what has kept her coming happily to work at Mountain Rose Herbs since 2005.
When hand pouring salves, lotions and oils, we always create a sample that is sent to our Quality Control lab for each and every batch. This is just one of the ways we ensure quality and as much consistency as possible while working with the variables of organic ingredients grown in nature. Batches are not always exactly the same, despite the fact that we’ve made these recipes thousands of times—depending on the herbs, oils, butters, and essential oils, there may be slight variations that remind us all of nature’s dynamic beauty.
With patience and a steady hand, and guided by a passion for creating truly useful and beautiful body care products, our Kitchen Production team meets the high standards set by our mentors. As they explain, this is a process that can’t be rushed and each and every tin, jar, and bottle of botanical goodness is crafted with care and pride.
Posted by|17 February 2014
Known as drinking vinegars, sipping vinegars, or shrubs, these zippy herbal concoctions have become quite trendy in the world of hip cocktails, but they are also a classic way to create good home remedies and medicines. In fact, in North America during colonial times, sipping vinegars were commonly used as both medicines and a way to preserve fruits and herbs in a deliciously consumable infusion.
We know we can make simple teas from so many different fresh and dried herbs, and we have our tinctures for concentrations of herbal properties, but vinegar is often overlooked as a way to create tasty and useful preparations.
Holy Basil, or Tulsi has been used in various cultures for generations as a healing medicinal herb and is used significantly in Ayurvedic medicine. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen as it helps balance different processes in the body and is believed to give us strength when facing normal daily stress. It also lends itself well to sipping vinegars—particularly the Krishna and the Rama varieties—which are cultivated commonly throughout the gardens of India. With spicy leaves that are peppery, lemony, and with undertones of clove and licorice, these flavors are a good match for vinegars. Our organic Holy Basil varieties are particularly special, as they were grown for us both right here in the Pacific Northwest and on one of our beautiful organic farms in India. The quality of flavor and aroma is absolutely stellar!
The ritual of preparing a calming, healing beverage is as much a part of self-rejuvenation for me as the herbal properties themselves. Creating infused vinegars and crafting tonics allows me to be personally involved in caring for my mind, my body, and my loved ones.
A sipping vinegar or shrub is basically a combination of vinegar, sugar, and plant matter. You can use any vinegar you’d like: apple cider, champagne, red wine, etc. I prefer to use an organic apple cider for medicinal infusions, but I often use organic white vinegar for infusions used for culinary preparations (more “glamorous” fruity shrubs) or those I intend to give as gifts.
When it comes to the sugar, I like to use raw honey in medicinal vinegars, but this is where you can use what works best for you too. The infusion can then be taken as a tonic or can be mixed with sparkling water, juice, alcohol, or a mixture of all for a delicious beverage. You can adjust the sweetener to taste and you might be surprised how delightfully mellow a well-infused sipping vinegar can be…
Rama Damiana Calming Sipping Vinegar
Using a clean quart jar, put 1 cup each organic Holy Basil (Rama) and organic Damiana into the jar and cover with 3-4 cups apple cider vinegar, making sure to cover the herbs entirely. Cover with a plastic lid or wax paper or plastic wrap and let sit to infuse. For medicinal preparations, 6-8 weeks is the estimated length of infusion, although many folks will strain and use their vinegars after 1 week—especially those using the vinegars for cocktails. You may infuse these in a cool, dark place, or in the sunlight.
Using a strainer or several layers of cheesecloth, strain the vinegar and compost the herbs. Add 1 Tablespoons raw local honey per ½ cup of vinegar in a clean jar and shake to combine. This is best stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
For one beverage, add an optional ice cube or two to a glass. Add ¼ cup sipping vinegar and fill glass with sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer, bubbly, etc. (or you can just add water or your organic tea of choice.) If you’d like a little alcohol, make room for an ounce or so of your liquor or wine of choice.) You can also take this as a tonic by the tablespoon or shot glass.
Krishna Holy Basil Sipping Vinegar
(with optional Strawberries)
Basil and strawberries are an interesting and delicious combination and this blending makes for a wonderful beverage. Feel free to experiment with other fruits or go with just the Holy Basil.
Using a clean quart jar, put 1-2 cups organic Holy Basil (Krishna) into the jar and cover with 3-4 cups vinegar (your choice), making sure to cover the herbs entirely. Cover with a plastic lid or wax paper or wrap plastic wrap and let sit to infuse 1-6 weeks. You may infuse these in a cool, dark place, or in the sunlight if you’d like.
Using a strainer or several layers of cheesecloth, strain the vinegar and compost the herbs. While the vinegar is straining, mash ½ cup organic strawberries (if I don’t have fresh, I thaw strawberries that we’ve frozen from our garden and use those). Add 2-3 Tablespoons of raw local honey or organic cane sugar to the strawberries and smash up together. I like to let them sit for at least an hour, but usually several hours before mashing and combining with the strained vinegar. Combine the vinegar and sweetened strawberries in a clean jar and shake to fully incorporate (you can also blend in a blender or use an immersion blender for extra smoothness.) This is best stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
For one beverage, add an optional ice cube or two to a glass. Add ¼ cup sipping vinegar and fill glass with sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer,bubbly, etc. (or you can just add water, juice or your organic tea of choice.) If you’d like a little alcohol, make room for an ounce or so of liquor or white or rose wine.) ¼ cup of this vinegar with sparkling wine or champagne is delicious too! You can also take this as a tonic by the tablespoon or shot glass.
So, next time you are craving an herbal infusion that is a little zippier than the customary cup of tea or looking for a creative and intentional way to experience the healing pleasures of herbs like Holy Basil, consider creating a delicious sipping vinegar!
Posted by|14 February 2014
We are excited to introduce a new favorite for aroma crafters everywhere!
This intoxicating aromatic absolute is solvent extracted from the wood of Quercus robur. It has a rich smoky wood aroma, that is reminiscent of whiskey, with oaky vanilla undertones. This absolute is quite viscous and a little will go a long way in an oil blend. It’s mostly used in perfumery and can also be blended into therapeutic diffuser blends. The rich base note properties will round out a blend and weigh it down for a longer lasting aroma.
Oak is the quintessential wood that vintners utilize to bring flavor and color into a bottle of wine through the use of oak barrels or chips. It was once thought that these barrels were used to extract oakwood absolute. This may have been true at some point, but today this exquisite oil comes from virgin wood that is usually a waste byproduct from the local lumber industry.
Click here to learn more about this exciting new oil!
Please visit our website to see our full line of Essential Oils and Absolutes.
Posted by|13 February 2014
Look who came to visit!!
One of our favorite folks in the herbal community, John Gallagher of LearningHerbs.com and HerbMentor.com, stopped by Mountain Rose today. You might also recognize him from our awesome educational videos on YouTube. Here’s a shot of Shawn and Irene excited to greet him and share the day with a longtime friend.
Posted by|11 February 2014
I was driving along the Nantahala in late fall. The fog was thick, muting the sunset mauve colors of Oaks and Maples as they shed their leaves to prepare for the cold months. When I’d stopped for a walk I could pick out the lingering Sassafras leaves, grey panicles of the Hydrangea, and mammoth Muscadine vines growing towards the canopy. I spotted the barren branches and glowing fruit of the wild Persimmons, one of my favorite wild fruits. After a few moments of rooting around under the tree I was back on the road with a few fistfuls of the most ripe fruit I could find.
I grew up in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The mountains and valleys of our eastern deciduous forests are rich in some of our most valued botanicals. Plants like goldenseal, ginseng, black cohosh, and many others have played important ecological roles in our forests since ancient times. The long traditions of using these plants for good health continue to influence our modern approaches to herbalism and our relationship with these forests.
I visited Appalachia to talk with our wild-harvesters and ask what we can do to help manage and plan for our woodland harvests. With the growing interest of incorporating more of our woodland plants into our lives for health and food we need to continue to be engaged with where and how these plants are harvested and what we can do to ensure healthy future stands.
Non-timber forest products also provide growing business for rural economies. On a large organic forest farm we work with in Kentucky the signs of former industry are visible across the landscape. From the hills that had been clear cut and were growing back thick with Slippery Elm, to the rusted hulk of machinery used to make bricks from the clay that was quarried from the area, it is awesome to watch the family who’d lived on this land for generations move towards a more active stewardship of the property.
Working with the land to learn how to manage our forests for an indefinite harvest of these plants, we can also ensure the people who do this work have good livelihoods. As more people return to the forest for healing, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that we’re taking care of the plants and the people that these forests support. Intentionally growing and managing stands of medicinal, edible, and beautiful plants in forests is what we’re working towards.
Wild Cherry and Slippery Elm are two trees that I have been using for a long time. Several years ago some friends and I were clearing trees from a driveway out on wooded land in central Alabama. We cut down some black cherry trees and I spent the next couple days with a draw knife peeling back the fragrant bark. I gave most away and used enough for some tincture we’d all call “Throat Tickle” for it’s effectiveness in warming, soothing, autumn teas. I dried and cured the wood and used them to make walking sticks for me and my father and used the end cuts for a cutting board for my partner.
Wild Cherry pairs well with another tree that lives between the forest and the fields, Slippery Elm. For timber forest management Slippery Elm, or Red Elm, is usually considered an uneconomically important tree. It’s branching habit and quick growth doesn’t lend it to a lot of woodworking applications, but for many herbalists it’s an invaluable resource as one of our most excellent mucilaginous demulcents.
Slippery Elm is threatened by two diseases: Dutch Elm Disease and Elm Yellows Disease. These diseases are spreading through our Appalachian forests threatening our elm stands. For the cottage-scale herbalist harvesting the spongy cambium only from windfall branches after a storm or making friends with a local saw mill to gather the bark after a cut seems to be the most ethical option. Often many small saw mills will give you or sell you the wood inexpensively just to take it away because it is considered not worth the effort to handle. It makes okay fire wood as well. However, cutting small strips from a tree can open up a large wound that could be infected by disease, spreading these threats through our forests. These useful trees take a few decades to grow to a harvestable size, so helping the forest industry recognize our use and value of them is important.
Mountain Rose is working with our forest farms to figure out the best strategies for continuing the harvest of these trees. These trees highlight some of the challenges of working with forest management of our older medicinal plants. For a general mucilaginous demulcent, many people have turned to marshmallow root. If you’d like to wild-harvest your slime-plants, here in the Pacific Northwest, I like to use our native weedy Malvaceae Sidalcea, often grown as a native ornamental, or the introduced Malva neglecta leaves. Some native or introduced Malvaceae can be found across the country. Where I’m from in the Deep South, hibiscus and okra grow very well. I also love Sassafras leaves in the Lauraceae family as a good aromatic mucilage, traditionally used to thicken gumbo.
Stopping at different natural and historic places throughout the South reminded me of the culture I come from and the long traditions of plants and an engagement with nature that shaped those cultures. I feel honored to work with our forest-harvesters to connect people with the most ethical and honest botanicals we can.
Brian’s Dirty South Throat Tickle Soother
1 quart of pleasantly warm to hot organic slippery elm or marshmallow root tea
Raw local honey to taste
fresh organic grated ginger, garlic, or another warming aromatic to taste
3-4 droppers of organic cherry bark tincture
2-3 droppers of organic sassafras root tincture or some fresh fall sassafras twigs in the tea, excellent warm lemony flavor (optional) or organic lemon juice to taste (optional)
2-3 dropper organic echinacea root, teaberry leaf, or birch bark tincture (optional)
Bourbon to taste (very optional)
Mix all ingredients together and sip as needed!